Congo parties say doubts over Kabila intentions hurting coalition

Democratic Republic of Congo's President Joseph Kabila attends a two-day meeting of leaders from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in Pretoria November 4, 2013. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Parties in Congo's ruling coalition have warned President Joseph Kabila that widespread worries that he wants to stay in power were draining their support, and asked to meet him to discuss their concerns, according to letters seen by Reuters. Kabila, who took power in 2001 following the assassination of his father before winning disputed elections in 2006 and 2011, is barred from seeking a third term at elections scheduled for November 2016 in the giant central African nation. But tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in January after the government tried to bring in reforms that the opposition said were meant to extend Kabila's rule by requiring a census before elections. The reforms were dropped. With several veteran African leaders approaching term limits in the coming years, including in neighbouring Congo Republic, the political manoeuvering in Kinshasa is being closely watched. Some analysts fear a power struggle within the ruling coalition if Kabila confirms he is stepping down. In a March 5 letter, the leaders of seven parties said that the failed attempt to modify the electoral law in January had weakened the coalition. "The presidential majority is unable to make a viable offer to the Congolese people at this stage," the letter said, adding that "vague efforts to modify the constitution" plus the attempt at electoral reform had stirred popular anger. "This confirms a split between the ruling majority and a majority of Congo's society," it said, warning that without dialogue the divisions in the government would deepen. Kabila has refused to comment but a government spokesman has repeatedly said he would not seek another term. The document was signed by major coalition parties, including the Movement for Social Renewal (MSR), the Alliance for Renewal of Congo (ARC) and the Christian Democrat Party (PDC), which form a sizeable bloc in Congo's 500-seat national assembly. "We have over 100 members of parliament. If the refusal for dialogue continues, the majority could tip when parliament resumes on March 15," a senior coalition member who signed the letter told Reuters. The document was not signed by four major members of the coalition, including Kabila's People's Party for Reconstruction and Development (PPRD). The coalition controls more than 300 seats in the assembly. A spokesman for the ruling coalition, Luzanga Shamandevu, said that he was aware of the March 5 letter and a previous missive on Feb. 22 requesting an audience with Kabila. "In the presidential majority, people can express themselves with freedom but with discipline," he said. (Reporting by Bienvenu Bakumanya; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Daniel Flynn)